2016 was another year of widespread success for Gavin James. ‘Breaking Artist’ winner at the A&R Awards, the Spotify Spotlight Artist of 2016 also had wide support from tastemakers on BBC Radio 1, Apple’s Beats 1 and Radio X. The toweringly-tall, down-to-earth Dubliner with his heavenly voice, spine-tingling songs and habit of jumping into audiences has earned himself an army of devoted fans around the world.
The past year’s schedule was just as rammed as the previous years’. The sold-out shows – headline this time -began with a three-night run at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre and continued with Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Amsterdam’s Paradiso and LA’s The Troubadour. His crowning moment came at the 3 Arena in December, a raucous headline show at the sold-out the 15,000-capacity venue.
Gavin shows no sign of slowing down in 2017. The first half already booked up with headline tours in the UK, Ireland, Europe and America. His April appearance at The Forum in Kentish Town will be his largest headline performance in the UK to-date. He will also play his biggest Dutch show at the famous Heineken Music Hall on Oct 6th.
Gavin’s total Spotify streams are rapidly heading toward 200 Million making him the 175th most streamed act in the world and rising. His breakout hit Nervous, which has to-date achieved over 100 million streams collectively on Spotify, reached No.1 in Holland, Top 10 in Norway, France and Ireland, going multi-platinum in those and several other international markets. Nervous has undoubtedly cemented Gavin as one to watch in 2017. His newest single, I Don’t Know Why, is a fresh take on a track from 2016’s Bitter Pill, slated for release in February. According to Gavin, I Don’t Know Why, a song about young love, came to be in a rather interesting way.
“I was working all day in the studio on some songs but nothing was coming out. So, I met up with a friend and went out and got quite drunk, then came back home at 4 in the morning and started working on an idea. I woke up later that day with no recollection of recording at all and the song “I Don’t Know Why” was all there.”
Gavin has had an immensely successful couple of years. One of the most genuine and humble men in music, Gavin is unsurprisingly thrilled with the way things are going at the moment: “I’m loving every minute of this. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted and I can’t wait to know what comes next.”
To understand why his past year was so fruitful you need a glance back at his relentless gigging past and recent studio album, Bitter Pill. The album achieved Platinum Top 5 sales in his native Ireland and reached the Top 5 of the album charts across Europe. He was also awarded Song of The Year for the album’s title track at the Choice Music Prizes.
Several songs from his first album Live at Whelan’s feature on Bitter Pill, benefitting from studio treatment, loving attention, and the grand setting they deserve. Gavin’s raw delivery remains, as does his powerful falsetto, but now there are strings, choir-like backing vocals and electric instruments that add drama to the up-tempo tracks.
“I’ve always wanted to hear how my songs would sound properly produced, but I didn’t want them to lose the edge they had live. We recorded the song Bitter Pill first and once we’d found the sound for that the rest was easy. The vocals haven’t really changed, the songs just became bigger. We got in some strings and someone to play piano. I mean, properly play, not like me, although I did insist on playing a little on a couple of songs.”
Though Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil took over guitar duties on ‘22’ - a song to be aired in the hit TV drama Grey’s Anatomy in the UK on Feb 16th - the acoustic, electric and bass on the album were predominantly played by Gavin. He also provided the massed backing vocals on the recent single I Don’t Know Why and the epic Coming Home, the latter with assistance from his big sister Emma.
“I got a few folk down to the studio to help with backing vocals on Coming Home, including my sister, who’s an amazing singer,” says Gavin. “I made everyone stand in different parts of the room to make it sound like a choir, then overdubbed their vocals about 50 times.”
“It was fucking cool to finally get to play electric guitar on record,” says Gavin, who recorded in London and L.A. with producers Fraser T. Smith (Adele, Sam Smith) and Cam Blackwood (George Ezra, Florence + The Machine).
Live at Whelan’s, Gavin’s first album, recorded at his local pub, brought him to the attention of Sony in Europe and Capitol in the States in January of 2015. No one fully anticipated that the live album would gain so much popularity in America, where its only cover, a haunting version of Magnetic Fields’ The Book Of Love, became a radio staple.
“The crazy bit is that The Book of Love wasn’t even supposed to be on the album,” says Gavin. “It was just my warm-up song. But when I’d finished the encore and the crowd was leaving, for some reason, I ran back on stage, called people back in and added it to my set.
“It was a real ‘fate’ moment. And funny – because I said I’d quit doing covers then my only cover takes off.”